Weekend wishes and musings on marriage

“Marriage is not simply the luck of the draw, or something that we get involved in which just unfolds before us like a long movie. Good marriage, like good individual lives or good art, are conscious creations. They are made.” – Kevin and Marilyn Ryan

I’ve been thinking about marriage and relationships lately. More specifically, on how much intentional effort and time it takes to achieve a deep understanding of each other, and to grow in intimacy and trust.

I confess that with three little ones, it’s easy to let the kids take over and steal the show. (And to let marriage subtly slide into second place.) Because their voices are so loud and their needs so immediate, everything about them comes first.

But what’s urgent may not always coincide with what’s important. And marriage is one of those things that can easily be shoved to a corner, while we’re busy fighting fires or changing poopy diapers.

I need to remember to place my marriage as priority, and to place my husband as priority. It comes second to none, except perhaps our personal relationship with God.

The weekends are usually busy and full of different activities, commitments.  But I pray that this weekend, you’ll make time to savour some sweet moments with your spouse, recollect some good memories perhaps, or even a funny incident. Hold hands, even as the little ones tug at your shirt. Share with him what’s been on your heart. Be ready to listen too.

Be humble, quick to forgive, and slow to anger.

Have a sweet and loving weekend, friends.

3 awesome ways to reconnect with your spouse

3 awesome ways to reconnect

I’ve been talking about self-care lately, and one of the things on my heart is to really invest time and energy into my marriage.

What’s marriage got to do with self-care? Well, a woman’s heart is all about relationships, and the marriage relationship is a key one to nurture. It’s always easy to lose track, to be caught up with our work or family obligations, or just busy giving face-time to our gadgets and screens rather than each other.

So here are 3 of our favourite activities that I’ve found helps to set the mood for reconnection to happen. (The best part? You don’t need to spend a bomb on anything.)

1. Couple mask night

Ahem, confession time. The hubby and I enjoy putting on masks together. It’s silly I know, but also very therapeutic.

We haven’t been able to do it as regularly as we like to, and only recently got started on it again. During the half hour or so, we just lie in bed with our masks on, and talk and talk and talk.

If you’ve never tried it, you might want to give it a go. it’s a great opportunity to reconnect (maybe cos we’re just stuck with each other for an entire 30 minutes) amidst all the busyness.

And for us ladies, we also get to moisturise the skin at the same time. So win-win. ;)

2. Go on a jog-date

I’m not a running type of person but I can manage a jog-walk. The hubby is gracious enough to slow down to my humble pace and just enjoy the evening air and scenery as we jog down the park. We talk about anything and everything, mostly about his work, and also the kids. Sometimes I share my worries and sometimes about my dreams.

Something about the air and the adrenaline helps to get blood pumping into my brain and I always feel a sense of clarity after the exercise.

I never thought I’d manage (much less enjoy) talking while running but I’ve managed to surprise myself. At the end of the run, we reward ourselves with some yummy hawker favourites like prawn noodles and bbq chicken wings. Or pig out on pizza from an Italian joint nearby.

It always feels good to work out together, so I hope to keep this up regularly (that means 2-3 times a month).

3. Have a device-free night

I must admit there’s always some inertia and even sweaty palms whenever I plan for this. I worry about what if I miss out on some major news break in the world, or on some important message from my Whatsapp / Facebook chat threads. (Yes, the gadget lifestyle has made us all a little paranoid about our social worlds. This has also made me realise how much a victim of “the urgent” I have become.)

The last weekend, I tried to have a device-free night (meaning mobile phone, laptop, and ipad are all switched off or on airplane mode from 7-12 midnight), but the hubby unfortunately had to get some work done, so we had to postpone it.

I think for such a night to be counted as fruitful and restful, it should feature some fun – maybe a movie or cooking something together, some sharing or planning (thinking about the future), and some quiet reflection (reading a book or the bible, and then sharing what you learnt).

So this is still on my list, and I plan to do it at least once a month.

I guess what you guys do doesn’t matter as much as how you intentionally set aside time and space to connect with your spouse.

Now it’s your turn…What’s your favourite way to reconnect? 

30 ways to love your wife (Singapore edition)

As follow up to the post on 30 ways to love your husband, here is the wife version. I had lots of fun writing this post (almost wanted to go on and on!) and I hope you hubbies get some ideas here as well. ;)

30 ways to love your wife

1) Develop great listening skills. When she needs to share something with you, set aside time for her, and just try to listen and not offer quick-fix solutions.

2) Save your eyes only for her.

3) Make time to date her, pursue her, make her feel valued and cherished.

4) Surprise her with flowers and chocolate (Awfully Chocolate cake or an earl grey chocolate tart from Five and Dime might do the trick too). Sweet surprises always work, any day of the year.

5) In family squabbles, always stand on her side of the fence.

6) Take over child-minding duties when she’s on the brink of losing it. Ask her to head out for some fresh air or a cup of tea or just catch a nap.

7) When she asks you what’s on your mind, don’t say “nothing”. (Making something up may work better than saying nothing.)

8) Bring her shopping and when she finds something that she really likes, give her your real opinions gently. Even if she gets upset with you, she’ll appreciate your honesty later.

9) Make an effort to get to know her girlfriends.

10) Put down the phone and talk to her. Or better yet, institute a mobile-free date night once a fortnight.

11) Send her cute love messages occasionally on weekdays.

12) Don’t cringe or say no when she asks you to buy sanitary pads for her. This is part of her womanhood, embrace it.

13) Help out in the house. Cook or clean something. Men who happily change diapers/wash dishes/hang the clothes to dry are known to be very very sexy.

14) Set a calendar reminder so you know when it’s the time of the month. Then be extra loving and patient, and stock up on chocolate in the fridge without her asking.

15) Pray for her. Make time to read God’s word together.

16) Remember she is a woman, and she needs to be loved, and constantly reminded of your love. (Mornings are a good time to do this.)

17) When you initiate sex, and she’s not feeling up to it, don’t make her feel guilty. Say “it’s really okay, we’ll try tomorrow” and give her a hug and kiss instead.

18) For each time you offer her a constructive criticism or feedback, affirm her for something that she’s done well too.

19) When she gives you the daily report on how the kids were, try to be attentive and interested, even if you’re tired.

20) Give grace when she fails. Don’t rub salt in her wound when she’s already feeling remorseful about something she’s done. You can give her ideas on how to do something better when you know she’s ready to listen.

21) Be patient with her. Give her time to grow into her role (as wife or mother of X number of kids) and rise up to new challenges.

22) Choose family time over hanging-out-with-the-boys time. (Occasionally is good. Often, even better.)

23) Understand her love language. If it’s words of affirmation, give her ample loving and kind words whenever you find a chance to.

24) Write her love notes. Hide them in her handbag. Or use them to wrap a chocolate and hide it in her handbag.

25) If you’re leaving town, pack an activity bag filled with old toys or a new puzzle / game for the kids, and include a token amount of shopping money for her too.

26) Wake her up with a lovingly prepared breakfast in bed. (Think pancakes with chocolate sauce and ice-cream, or a simple french toast.)

27) Allow her to sleep in on a Saturday morning while you bring the kids out for breakfast.

28) Support her when she shares another one of her crazy, whirlwind ideas with you. Or at least listen to it and give her ideas to develop further too.

29) When she wakes up, remind her of how beautiful and precious she is to you.

30) Buy her a thoughtful gift to mark special occasions. (Check out Hipvan, Asos, Pupsik Studio, Zalora, or Blessings & Co)

Let’s listen to what other mums have to say…

I feel loved when my husband makes the effort to protect our family time together by choosing us over other commitments, especially when he sacrifices personal recreation or time with friends to be with us. I also feel cared for when he initiates to help me with the kids or offers to baby sit so I can get some me time! Words of affirmation and appreciation are also soothing to the soul but these days acts of service cut it better ;) – Eeleen

I feel most loved when he loves God and shares God’s word with me. – Ruth

My husband’s a bit like Jiminy Cricket. He tells me when I’ve been unkind, when he feels that something I’ve written lacks punch, or when a photo I’ve taken is just so-so. I’m not ecstatic to receive the feedback, but I appreciate that there is one person in my life that I can count on for an honest, unedited opinion. And even if I don’t agree with him, taking a step back to re-examine my actions or my work has usually meant that something better comes out of it. – Evelyn, The Bottomsup Blog

I love it when he spends time playing with the kids – seeing them laugh and play together is so heartwarming and better than any present he could buy me. Also it’s nice that the kids are distracted for a bit and not always clamouring for mummy all the time. – Edlyn, MummyEd

1. Giving me a break from Noah to have some me-time 2. Surprising me with my favorite dessert 3. Watching my favourite shows with me – Adeline, Growing with the Tans

I love it when he looks after the boys when they wake up at ungodly hours of 5-6am, letting me snooze while he gets them bathed and settled their breakfast. I love it when he quietly tops up the car cash card and petrol for the week, knowing these things rarely occur to me . I love it whenever he gives me a kiss on the forehead before he leaves for work. – Dorothea, A Pancake Princess

30 ways to love your husband (Singapore edition)

I got the idea for this post when the other day, I bought my hubby his favourite teh si siu dai (tea with evaporated milk, less sugar). I knew he had had a rough morning with the kids and was feeling tired. His eyes perked up when I handed him the drink at the door and he melted into a happy boy smile. It was then I knew that it only takes a small act of thoughtfulness to let our loved ones know that they are loved.

If you have an idea to contribute, do leave us a comment!

30 ways to love your husband

~~~~~~

1) Consciously try not to nag. If you really need his help with something, WhatsApp him or add it to his wunderlist or evernote.

2) Surprise him with his favourite teh-si or kopi siu-dai when he’s had a hard day.

3) Buy him his favourite chicken rice or mee pok when he’s hungry. Better still, learn to cook these at home.

4) Open the envelopes of his mail and place contents in a neat pile for him to go through.

5) Buy him a tee that says “Best daddy. Ever.”

6) Make time for sex and intimacy. This is very important. ‘Nuff said.

7) Don’t criticise him when you notice he’s doing things wrongly while taking care of baby. Give him clear instructions as to how to improve, and affirm him for helping out.

8) When you need help with something, don’t bark your orders at him. Begin with something like this, “honey, I know you’re busy but can you help me with X, Y, Z?” and end with “you’re the best, sweetie.” or “what would I do without you?” Of course, mean what you say…

9) Buy him his favourite bottle of wine. Better yet, make time to enjoy a glass together.

10) Go easy on your credit cards for a month.

11) Plan an adventure or holiday you know he’s always wanted to have.

12) Don’t laugh at his grammar mistakes on a daily basis.

13) Laugh at his jokes (even when no one else does, or even when it’s not sooo funny.)

14) Have clear instructions written down for everything, including how to make/warm baby’s milk, how to give medication if the kids are ill, etc etc. So you avoid potential areas of miscommunication. (It may come naturally for you, but recognise that he may struggle with such little details.)

15) Give lots of verbal and non-verbal affirmation. Try not to criticise. Period.

16) Do everything within your means to support his dreams and career choices.

17) Help him with little things when he’s busy, such as collating his taxi receipts for claims at work, and sticking them onto paper for scanning and filing.

18) Keep your shared work-spaces neat and tidy.

19) Show appreciation when he makes the effort to tidy up the house.

20) Give him time and space to cool off after an argument. Don’t force him if he can’t talk or resolve the conflict immediately.

21) Don’t force him to talk when he doesn’t want to. If there’s an important matter to discuss, schedule it at a good time, and give him a heads-up.

22) Be all ears when he wants to talk (since this doesn’t usually happen very often…)

23) RESPECT him as head of the household. Don’t contradict him in front of the kids, or other people for that matter.

24) Take his criticisms well and make an effort to improve on the areas that he points out.

25) Teach him to communicate in a way that makes you feel loved and cherished. (This is win-win, right?)

26) Make an effort to look good. Be happy and grateful.

27) Offer grace and forgiveness even if he doesn’t deserve it.

28) Discuss important matters with him before making a decision, especially those that affect him and the family.

29) Ask him how you can love him better, then do what he says. (You can’t go wrong with this approach!)

30) Focus on his strengths, affirm them. Weaknesses? Give him ideas on how to improve.

I asked some male friends and the other-halves of fellow blogger mums to contribute to today’s topic. Here’s what they had to say:

“I like it when she shows me respect as the head of the household. On a more personal level, I love it when she shows me physical affection (ie hugs, or even hand holding) when we are in public.” – E-gene

“Do something out of the ordinary together, like learn ballroom dancing with me.” – David, husband to blogger mum Angeline

“To be supported and appreciated for what I’m naturally good at.” – singer songwriter Andy Philip

“Know when I try too.” – Roboman, husband to Corsage

“Follow the plan.” – Mel

“Put the kids somewhere so we can go out for a movie on our own.” – D, husband to blogger mum mummybean

“Wake up at 4am and go exercising with me” – Matthew, husband to blogger mum (and board game enthusiast) Pamela

“Put down the phone and talk to me.” – Gabriel (oops, I think we’re all guilty of this one.)

What’s your husband’s favourite way for you to show more love to him? Go on and ask, it’s your turn now. ;)

How grace works in a marriage

I read this quote by Paul Zahl (from an article by Gospel Coalition):

Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver (the one who loves) in relation to the receiver (the one who is loved) that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…Grace is one-way love.

What does it mean to give grace? Grace is probably one of the hardest things to grasp. Perhaps because it’s so uncommon in our daily lives.

But if you’ve been a recipient of grace, you know how to be a giver too. In marriage (as in daily life), I find it hard to be the one who gives grace. But I do know how to receive it.

I receive grace when I’ve been rude to the husband, or nonchalant in my attitude, and he takes it in his stride.

I receive grace when I forget to put the phone down and ask him about his day. Yet he doesn’t grumble or nag at me.

I receive grace when the kids have made me grouchy and sulky but he rubs my back and says “it’s okay, let’s see how we can make this better.”

I see grace when I’m feeling lousy but he accepts me as I am, weaknesses and all.

I see grace when he lets me vent my frustrations, and doesn’t shut me out.

I see grace when after I’ve lost it and yelled at the kids, he doesn’t put me on a guilt trip, and sits down and troubleshoots with me instead.

And whenever I receive grace, I’m better able to spread some around, even to the kids.

When they rant and rage, I see that all they need is to let it all out, and not punish them for feeling those big emotions but work with them on how to feel better after. (I wish I always manage to stay in control, but unfortunately I’m no saint. But when I do manage to stay calm, I find it makes it easier for them to regulate their emotions and calm down.)

When they are unreasonable and unloving, I can choose to STILL be reasonable and gentle. I need to remember that I always have that option. (And erm…exercise it more.)

But then, what if we take grace for granted? (It’s easy to, isn’t it?) What if they push it further?

I could choose to bully my husband and take advantage when he’s in grace mode. But somehow I don’t. If grace is one-way love, then I must say it usually gets a reciprocal effect. It gives back.  If grace is all about the giver, I feel propelled to want to be a giver too.

Because when I accept the grace that he’s offered with his open hands, I feel unworthy, almost indebted.

Also, I’m reminded that the biggest grace of all, is the one when Christ paid for my sins by dying on the cross. I can’t even begin to repay that debt.

What I can do though is to offer the same grace to others who need it as much as I do.

Grace is like a bunch of summer blooms shoved under your nose when you’re feeling blue. What are the ways you see grace at work in your family? Please share. We all need a touch of grace…

grace is one way love

Little Lessons: Kids can be a great make-up tool

I remember the time when Vera and Javier received a lollipop each from a kind elderly lady on the street. It happened out of the blue and before I knew it, the kids were holding their lollipops with glee all over their faces. I gave the husband the eye when he said nothing and just allowed the kids to hold on to their precious candy. I opened my mouth and was about to say my peace when he suddenly exclaimed, “just relax lah, okay.”

I was taken aback by his angry tone, so taken aback that I stormed off and walked home first, without waiting for everyone. (Not very gracious I know…)

I confess, I’m a nazi when it comes to sweets. All manner of them are banned from my home. I do allow the kids chocolate and biscuits though, and we have a small tin of goat’s milk sweets that they get treated to on occasions too.

I digress.

Back home, I shut myself in the room, just seething inside. When the clan got home, I didn’t even go out to see them. I just didn’t feel like talking to anyone.

Then came a knock on the door. Vera popped her head in and said, “Mummy?”

I asked her to come in. She came to stand beside my bed, where I was seated. Then she said, “Are you still angry? Papa asks you not to be angry anymore…”

Then she grinned. And I did too. As if on cue, the husband waltzed in. He peeked and saw the coast was clear. He sat down beside me, rubbed my shoulders and apologised for what he had said. Of course, I was already disarmed by our little girl.

Plus it was hard to act angry while smiling.

“Okay,” I said sheepishly.

And that was how we made up.

So, don’t underestimate your little ones. They could be little agents in disguise. ;)

little agents in disguise

This is post #17 of our weekly Little Lessons series. If you have a life lesson to share with us, please link up below!

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Love is… (a wife’s perspective)

Love. Before and after marriage

Before we got settled down, our love was like a campfire. Sparks flew, romance sizzled, and everything that stood in the way of love risked getting burnt.

Flowers were plentiful. So were chocolates, and romantic dinners.

After marriage, or should I say after children, love has taken a pretty different turn.

With most of our energy focused on running the household and caring for the kids, the love we share now is more like leaving the light on for the other to find his way home, like cooking dinner that isn’t burnt beyond recognition, like changing a blown lightbulb or fixing a leaky tap.

It’s a very functional kind of love. Practical and often solution-focused.

As a wife and mom of three, I surprise myself at the simple things that make me feel loved and valued…When the lightbulbs in the house are all in working order, when the rechargeable batteries are recharged, when the husband makes an effort to come home early to play with the kids, when he encourages me to go out and get a breather (or exercise or do whatever).

I feel amazingly loved whenever I see him playing crazy with the kids or smothering them with his love and kisses.

I feel awesomely superbly loved when he is patient with me (even when I don’t deserve it.)

Of course the once-in-a-while romantic dinner or stealing a quick coffee and breakfast in the morning works wonders for me too.

Also, when he listens to my ideas and acts as my sounding board. (Not least because he often ends up giving a different perspective, and logical reasoning and processes to follow.)

Ahh…these mundane little acts of love. They speak loud and clear. They say to me that I am loved, cherished, and that I mean something. Or perhaps, that we (as family) mean something. A really important something.

So while before marriage, love was a fuzzy warm feeling in the belly, a skip in the heart. After marriage, it hardens and becomes far more tangible. Like cotton clouds to a diamond being polished. It hardens to withstand the tests of time and storms. As dirty and sweaty as doing the dishes or changing a poopy diaper, yet never more real than it was before.

So honey, thank you for the toilet breaks, for taking over when I’m on the brink of losing it, for giving me room to grow and get better at parenting, and for those many awesome times when you bought me chocolate cake when I needed it most.

Now those (especially the chocolate cake) truly top up my love tank.

Happy anniversary to us.

A Juggling Mom Motivational Monday

Little Lessons: Gifts of love

Dear hubby,

You’ve given me many gifts throughout our marriage but today I’d like to single out two of these.

Laughter. And zen.

Since our dating days, you’ve already been making me laugh. I guess that’s what attracted me to you in the first place. Sometimes it’s a silly joke, or the funny things you say or do.

Then when we had our first baby, things got stressful for a long while as we adapted to the new life. I often had difficulty seeing the lighter side of things but you helped me along.

And now as we settle into life with three, you recently cracked me up again. So hard it actually hurt my ribs a little.

Here’s my account of what happened…(Though words can only say so much and I wish I’d videoed the entire scene down.)

Because of you, I now believe that every married couple who wants to stay married must laugh. A lot…

You’re also the zen one.

My friends used to label me zen, but that was before kids came into the picture.

Today I’m often frazzled and stressed out as a mum (perhaps more seasoned now and able to let go, but still…)

You on the other hand are usually calm and patient. It takes a lot for the kids to drive you up the wall. (But when you do get there you tend to stay there for a long time.)

You’ve taught and encouraged me to stay calm, and not shout or yell to get my way.

Just the other night when JJ was acting up, you were just about to cane him. But I went in and started to speak to him in a low calm voice. And I believe that it somehow helped to calm him, and you, down as well. When we left the room, I felt a sense of peace. I was like, hey I can do this parenting thing without yelling.

Granted I still have my moments, but I think it’s because of you that I’ve come this far.

What is it they say about a partner bringing out the best in a person. Yeah I think something like that has happened around here.

Every marriage needs a variety of ingredients to thrive. For me, the laughter and zen that you’ve brought to my life (and the family) have been both precious and practical.

Of course then there’s the romance and communication aspects that could always have room for improvement. But I shall save those for another post.

Thank you for making marriage and family life fun and calm for me. We’ve come a short distance, and we still have a long way to go. But I’m glad to be walking this road of life and love (plus a bit of crazy) with you.

xoxo

keep the love alive

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